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Federal Oversight of Commercial Nuclear Power

In 2012, U.S. commercial nuclear power plants generated about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licenses these plants and regulates and oversees their safe operation and security.

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NRC faces a number of new and ongoing challenges in fulfilling its mission, including:

  • Addressing concerns about the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants and the adequacy of its processes and regulations in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster.
  • Licensing new nuclear power plants for the first time in decades and reviewing advanced reactor designs.
  • Deciding whether to renew the operating licenses of existing nuclear power plants while continuing to provide effective oversight of those plants as they age.

Figure 1: NRC Regions and Operating Nuclear Power Plants in the United States

Figure 1: NRC Regions and Operating Nuclear Power Plants in the United States

Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

Nuclear Power:

Analysis of Regional Differences and Improved Access to Information Could Strengthen NRC Oversight
GAO-13-743:
Published: Sep 27, 2013. Publicly Released: Oct 17, 2013.

Emergency Preparedness:

NRC Needs to Better Understand Likely Public Response to Radiological Incidents at Nuclear Power Plants
GAO-13-243:
Published: Mar 11, 2013. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 2013.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

Oversight and Status of Implementing a Risk-Informed Approach to Fire Safety
GAO-13-8:
Published: Oct 22, 2012. Publicly Released: Nov 26, 2012.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

Natural Hazard Assessments Could Be More Risk-Informed
GAO-12-465:
Published: Apr 26, 2012. Publicly Released: May 29, 2012.

Nuclear Regulation:

NRC's Oversight of Nuclear Power Reactors' Decommissioning Funds Could Be Further Strengthened
GAO-12-258:
Published: Apr 5, 2012. Publicly Released: May 7, 2012.

More Reports

Nuclear Safety:

Countries' Regulatory Bodies Have Made Changes in Response to the Fukushima Daiichi Accident
GAO-14-109:
Published: Mar 6, 2014. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 2014.

Nuclear Reactor License Renewal:

Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel:

Observations on the Key Attributes and Challenges of Storage and Disposal Options
GAO-13-532T:
Published: Apr 11, 2013. Publicly Released: Apr 11, 2013.

Spent Nuclear Fuel:

Accumulating Quantities at Commercial Reactors Present Storage and Other Challenges
GAO-12-797:
Published: Aug 15, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 2012.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

Commercial Nuclear Waste:

Effects of a Termination of the Yucca Mountain Repository Program and Lessons Learned
GAO-11-229:
Published: Apr 8, 2011. Publicly Released: May 10, 2011.

Nuclear Commerce:

Nuclear Weapons:

Nuclear Safety:

Convention on Nuclear Safety Is Viewed by Most Member Countries as Strengthening Safety Worldwide
GAO-10-489:
Published: Apr 29, 2010. Publicly Released: Jun 1, 2010.
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